Colorado's Democratic governor takes on Big Marijuana with his veto pen. Undermining this bold leadership, the state's Republican senator defends an industry that harms public health, safety, and the best interests of our kids. His stance counters common sense and conservative values.
Republicans and Democrats should work together toward outcomes that promote the general welfare. With Gov. John Hickenlooper standing against the pot industry and its bought-and-paid-for politicians, Gardner has an opportunity to cross the aisle and help a moderate Democratic governor clean things up.
Instead, Gardner ventures far to the left and teams with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. They co-sponsor a bill tailored to help the marijuana industry. It conjures bad memories of Washington politicians rewarding Big Tobacco with laws to shield the industry from health concerns.
Warren's part in this surprises few. The left's agenda includes drug legalization, and Warren's liberal stature ranks second to none.
She enjoys 100 percent favorable ratings from the ACLU, the National Abortion Rights Action League, Earth Rights International, at least 20 labor unions, and hundreds of other left-leaning organizations. The American Conservative Union rates Warren at zero percent, along with the Campaign for Working Families, Concerned Women for America, Freedom Works, and other conservative groups.
Gardner and Warren call their bill the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act.
Conservative Republicans have good reason to advance states' rights. Our founders established the federal government to serve member states, not to lord over them. State sovereignty should far exceed federal authority.
The exception comes when one state imposes unfair burdens on others, establishing cause for federal intervention.
The pot industry generates tax money and enriches Colorado politicians with donations. Meanwhile, it exports a psychotropic drug to neighboring states. Those states don't get tax revenues or donations of pot money. They get only the menace of doped-up kids and intoxicated drivers. They get the burdens imposed by an industry that, in pursuit of lustful profits, openly advocates drug use among pregnant women.
Anyone who doubts the exportation of Colorado pot should visit the Colorado town of Trinidad. Pot stores line the tiny border community's sidewalks, conducting $300 in monthly pot transactions for every man, woman and child in the county. Pot retailers serve customers from New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Advocates of states' rights should respect New Mexico's right to seek federal protection from Colorado's poorly regulated pot trade.
This is not a gray area of law. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the matter with a 6-3 vote in 2005. The majority opinion in Gonzales v. Raich, written by liberal former justice John Paul Stevens, upholds the federal government's authority to enforce against marijuana in states that legalize the drug. The Constitution's Commerce Clause protects states' rights — as in the rights of one state to avoid harms exported by another.
As NBC News reports, commercial pot has foreign drug cartels flocking to Colorado, setting up plantations in national forests and grow houses in neighborhoods and warehouse districts. The free-for-all taps scarce law-enforcement resources.
Soaring pot sales correlate with Colorado's increasing rate of traffic fatalities involving stoned drivers and the state's rise in violent crime. Other states don't want these problems.
"When proponents made their case for legalization, they said we would do away with the black market and better regulate against youth access," said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who was Colorado's attorney general when voters legalized pot. "Here we are years later, and the black market has exploded. Law enforcement spends more time and resources on pot today than before it was legal. And we have the highest youth consumption rate in the country."
Warren and Gardner apparently want more of this. We expect poor judgment from Sen. Warren. Not from Sen. Gardner, who should place public health and safety — and genuine states' rights — above special interest political maneuvers.
The Gazette editorial board